How to navigate immigration and HIV

How to navigate immigration and HIV

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Dave Este
Professor Emeritus of Social Work, University of Calgary
The I AM Team
Interested in contributing to the I-AM blog? Your story, ideas and insight matter. Whether you’re from a Community Based Organization, independent, or otherwise, we’d love to hear from you!
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If you're living with HIV and looking to immigrate to Canada, there are some things you need to know to navigate the system.

You may know that Canada used to have a policy that banned folks with HIV from coming in, but they lifted this in 2016. However, it can still be a bumpy ride.

One thing you need to keep in mind is that medical exams are required for immigration, and that can be a major hurdle for those with HIV. Some immigration officers still have outdated and ignorant views on HIV, which can lead to discrimination and visa denials.

As importantly, in the event you test positive for HIV or any of the other required tests, you may not get the immediate guidance and help you’ll need from the immigration folks.

But there's no reason to get excited, we’re working to keep you covered!

Check out these 5 tips to help you navigate through the process painlessly, no matter what the hiccups along the way...

Tip no. 1...

Know your rights! The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects people with disabilities, including those living with HIV. So, get familiar with the laws and regulations that apply to HIV and immigration, and get legal advice if you need it.

Tip no. 2...

Be real about your HIV status. It's a personal decision, but it's crucial to disclose it during the immigration process. If you don't, you can get denied a visa. But don't worry, the Canadian government has pledged to keep your status private.

Tip no. 3...

Get your paperwork straight. Make sure your medical documents are up to date and complete, with all the info about your treatment and viral load. This is used to see if you're medically eligible for immigration, so have everything on deck.

Tip no. 4...

Support from organizations that specialize in HIV and immigration (check out the links at foot of this story page). They can help you with legal advice, info about the process, and emotional support. They might even be able to connect with resources and referrals.

Tip no. 5...

If you test positive during your immigration process, DO NOT WORRY! Remember, it’s crucial you take care of yourself. This may be a lot to take in right now, but you can do this!

The most important next step is to take care of your immediate emotional needs. You may not have been offered the help and support you deserve immediately after you tested. So, it’s a good time to reach out to someone you trust for support.

Canada is a compassionate, and welcoming country, and you should feel free to chase your dream of immigrating there, even with HIV. Just remember these tips, and you'll be good to go. Peace!

Faces of native Canadians appear on a 'YYC' sign at Calgary International Airport in Calgary (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)

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